Bunyan’s Struggles

In John Bunyan’s concluding thoughts to Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners he confesses that “of all the temptations that ever I met with in my life, to question the being of God, and truth of his gospel, is the worst, and the worst to be borne.” Even after his conversion Bunyan testified to experiencing these temptations. God could visit his soul with “ever so blessed a discovery of himself” and then shortly afterwards in his spirit he could be “so filled with darkness, that [he] could not so much as once conceive what that God and that comfort was, with which [he had] been refreshed.” Sometimes he saw “more in a line of the Bible than [he] could well tell how to stand under,” and other times the whole Bible appeared to him to be “a dry stick.”

Bunyan is an encouragement to those Christians who struggle with spiritual ups and downs. They are not unusual. Bunyan wrote:

I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:

1.) Inclining to unbelief.
2.) Suddenly to forget the love and mercy that Christ manifesteth.
3.) A leaning to the works of the law.
4.) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.
5.) To forget to watch for that I pray for.
6.) Apt to murmur because I have no more, and yet ready to abuse what I have.
7.) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust in themselves. ‘When I would do good, evil is present with me.’

But then listen to this:

These things I continually see and feel, and am afflicted and oppressed with, yet the wisdom of God doth order them for my good.

1.) They make me abhor myself.
2.) They keep me from trusting my heart.
3.) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.
4.) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.
5.) They press me to pray unto God.
6.) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober;
7.) And provoke me to pray unto God, through Christ, to help me, and carry me through this world.

Numbers 3 and 4 are especially powerful. May we learn more and more to fly to Jesus and his alien righteousness imputed to us!

Found in The Life of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 131-32.

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